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Not infrequently, brownies were part of our Friday night, pizza and a movie routine (sometimes replaced by cookie dough). The three of us would rent a movie, order or make a pizza, and gorge on cheese and chocolate while we watched the funny, predictable mating dance of girl-meets-boy.
The batter of any baking venture is usually the best part. As opposed to giving one child the bowl and the other the spoon, my mom would hand spoons to everyone and we would clean the bowl together. There’s no point in tossing perfectly good batter down the drain, after all, and no one was concerned about the horrifying effects of raw eggs. I’m still here, after all.
When I saw this recipe for chocolate pudding on The Kitchn, I immediately thought of boxed brownie batter. This recipe tastes remarkably like brownie batter once it’s done, and is a cinch to make. For those with concerns, no raw eggs need cross your lips for you to enjoy the sweet chocolate simplicity. I won’t be able to be with my mom on Mother’s Day this year, but I made chocolate pudding in her honor.
You will need:
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to bubble.
Remove half the cream to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk quickly, until the cream and dry mixture are fully incorporated. Add the chocolate mix to the pan with the rest of the cream, lower heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. (This only take a couple of minutes).
Pour into a container, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding, and chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. And wish your mothers a Happy Mother’s Day.
I picked up the plastic tub of strawberries because their dark red plumpness called to me. I imagined myself and my friend lounging on the sofa, eating strawberries and talking about our love lives, gin and tonics in hand. We were grocery shopping in preparation for an impromptu three-person dinner of hamburgers, corn on the cob, and roasted potatoes, and I thought the strawberries would be a light palate-cleanser as we all prepared the meal. Something sweet, unassuming, and healthy to get us ready for a meal of juicy grease and starch.
The ice cream was an afterthought, I swear.
The gin and tonics made it into the picture, but the next thing I knew, it was barbecue chips and work gossip. The strawberries languished in the fridge until after burgers at the pool, and weren’t remembered until we were well into our first episode of the sitcom I just had to make sure my friend fell in love with. (She did.) I, in turn, fell in love with this utterly simple way to “fancy up” some vanilla ice cream.
Fresh Strawberry Glaze
Serves 4, over ice cream
Note: You could use frozen berries, or any other sort of berry, for this topping. I suspect it would also be quite delicious blended, though I served it as-is.
You will need:
1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered (see note)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until strawberries have released their juices and the glaze is thick and shiny. Serve immediately, spooned over ice cream.
I haven’t had the baking bug in quite awhile. I could bore you with all of my reasons and excuses, but instead, I’ll bribe you with chocolate!
The making of these tiny pots of chocolate cream was precipitated by my waking up with a sudden determination to bake something, but this elusive “something” needed to meet several criteria.
The baked good needed to be something that Handsome and I could consume in a short amount of time, with a relatively low level of calorie-guilt. It needed to be something simple– no recipes calling for chilling overnight, or blanching the almonds before toasting, peeling, and re-toasting them, all in the service of eventually candying them as a garnish. I needed something simple, straightforward, and with a tad of elegance.
Enter my mother’s Betty Crocker Cookbook. Amid the recipes for Cherries Jubilee and Grasshopper Brownies was sandwiched a recipe for pot de crème. (Spoiler alert: this is not that recipe.) Flipping through this cookbook was enlightening; Betty takes a lot of shortcuts compared with the all-organic, gluten-free, free-range, Atkins-friendly bloggers of today (all of whom I love dearly and worship faithfully, btw). Betty is all about the pudding packet and the canned pie filling. As I giggled at the subversiveness of using shortening in a pie crust and canned pears for a special company-quality dessert, I remembered a recent post from The Kitchn about using a packet of Jell-O to flavor frosting. The cake they use to demonstrate this technique is every eight-year-old girl’s fantasy. The final product is covered in sprinkles, candles, candies, and glitter.
My pot de crème is not that. But the recipe comes from the fine bloggers at The Kitchn, who lately have won my heart and are my new favorites. Their recipe is simple, easy to follow, and has five ingredients. A quick Google search also informed me that I didn’t need fancy ramekins to make pot de crème; I wound up using four white ramekins and two small IKEA juice glasses. My eggs are free range, but my chocolate sure ain’t Scharffen Berger. And my heavy cream is definitely the store brand. This fancy, intimidating, French-so-it-must-be-impossible recipe came together in about ten minutes with so little effort, it may as well have been the pudding packet.
*Note: I have no photos for this post, because I ate all six little pots of goodness before I could photograph them in daylight. You’ll just have to imagine how beautiful they were.
Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Crème
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 6 servings
You will need:
2 c. heavy cream
5 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 c. honey
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp. whiskey (don’t use a smoky variety)
Preheat the oven to 300, and bring 4 cups of water to a simmer in a small pot. Set out six ramekins in a 13×9 cake pan.
Bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into tiny pieces. (Note: 5 ounces of chocolate is a weird amount, as bars are 4 ounces. I used one bar and added about a tablespoon of chocolate chips I had on hand. It was fine.)
Combine the eggs, honey, and whiskey in another bowl and whisk about two minutes, or until it starts to thicken.
When the cream starts to simmer, remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted.
Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture slowly, whisking constantly to bring the eggs up to the temperature of the chocolate without cooking them. Once the mixture is fully combined, divide among six ramekins (or juice glasses, or small jelly jars, or pretty coffee mugs). Pour the water into the baking pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake 30-40 minutes, and remove from oven while center still jiggles a little.
Cool at room temperature at least one hour before serving. Store in fridge up to four days.
*Note: when I let them cool for an hour, the texture was very loose, like pudding. (Not that anyone minded.) I chilled the others overnight, and the texture set properly for a much firmer dessert. Do what makes you happy. They taste delicious right out of the fridge, though!
For the last several weeks of school, my brain was too full to tackle anything more difficult than pasta or chocolate chip cookies. I was writing final papers, getting forms signed, running interference between my department and the graduate office, and heading to campus for last-minute meetings and assignments. There was plenty of stress eating, but not much real cooking or baking. Things were so crazy that I nearly let Mother’s Day slip past me.
Luckily, I caught it in time to ask my own mother what she would like for Mother’s Day, and had the foresight to suggest we celebrate in person a week late, when she would be in town to see me graduate, rather than celebrate by mail. My sister and I coordinated to get her some gifts, but she also asked that I bake her something. She asked that I bake her a coconut cream pie.
My mom is the one who most frequently asks me to bake for her. It started when I was little; she would let me help when she made no-bake cookies, those little delights of chocolate, oats, and peanut butter you mix in a pan and drop onto wax paper on the counter. I’ve made those cookies as an adult, but somehow they lose their magic if Mom isn’t eating one too soon, when it hasn’t set and is still warm and gooey.
When I got older, Mom would buy cake and brownie mixes and talk my sister and I into baking a pan of brownies, or a pan of yellow cake with canned chocolate frosting. Sometimes we’d get refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, which may or may not have made it all the way through the baking process before being consumed. Our pantry was usually stocked with a variety of muffin mixes; many a Saturday morning started with my sister and I baking muffins for mom. Mom would always rather be the baked-for, rather than the baker. If you know her, you know this suits her personality quite well.
Although I still consider myself a novice baker (this was my first cream pie, after all, and I wasn’t at all sure how to tell if it would set correctly, thicken up right, or come out edible), I got an early start at my mother’s side, as she showed me how to use a measuring cup, how to crack an egg without getting shell in the batter, and let me in on that all-important secret: the best way to clean a bowl is to lick it. I think I may have mentioned this before, but I’m pretty sure it was my mom who told me that if you can read, you can cook. Even complex recipes are simple if you follow the directions.
This is one of the more complex recipes I’ve ever followed. There’s a lot to do, and in a certain order. My sister was with me, so I was trying to explain the process along the way to a young woman who was incredibly dubious of both of our abilities on this front. Still, sharing the kitchen with my little sister to make our mother a pie was a special, if hilarious, experience. My sister raised her eyebrows when I brought out the food processor, jumped at the noise when I pulsed the animal crackers, and generally was awesome as sous chef while our mom laughed at us and read a book in the next room. We both looked at the coconut milk with some concern until a friend nearby assured us that is really is supposed to look that way. Sister was utterly nonplussed with having to wait between steps, and then having to wait three to four hours before we could eat the pie.
This pie was very tasty and not all that difficult to make, although it is somewhat complicated. It has a strong coconut flavor and is guaranteed to please the coconut-lover in your group. A word to the wise: if you are a texture eater (as I am), you should strain out the coconut flakes before you add the milk-coconut milk mixture to the egg mixture. I found the coconut flakes in the pie itself to be off-putting, but no one else minded. It’s a texture thing. The texture people among me will understand.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
6 ounces animal crackers
2 tbsp. sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
1 14-ounce can whole coconut milk
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tbsp. salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 tbsp. butter, cut into two pieces
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. cold heavy cream
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
For crust: Preheat oven to 325. Combine animal crackers, coconut, and sugar in a food processor and pulse in one-second pulses until crumby. Then process for 5-15 seconds until fine.
Combine crumbs with melted butter in a bowl until mixture looks uniform. Press into bottom of a 9″ pie plate (I used a 9.5″ pie plate, because that’s the pie plate I have and that’s the kind of girl I am) with the bottom of a ramekin or flat-bottomed cup.
Place pie in lower third of oven and bake ~15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time, until crust is medium brown. Set pie pan on a wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes.
For filling: Combine milk, coconut milk, 1/2 c. sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
In a separate bowl, whisk yolks, cornstarch, and 1 tsbp. sugar until fully combined. Add milk mixture to egg mixture a little at a time, whisking constantly (this is tempering the eggs, so they don’t scramble); you should add the milk mixture in 4-5 batches. [This is the part where, if you are a texture person, you would strain out the coconut before you add the milk mixture to the egg mixture.]
Return mixture to saucepan and cook until boiling. Allow to boil, stirring, for one minute, so mixture can thicken.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter until butter is completely absorbed. Pour into the pie shell and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the surface of the filling, and chill in the fridge for at least three hours.
For whipped cream: Just before serving, combine heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. With a hand mixer, beat on medium or high until soft peaks forms, about 3-4 minutes.
Spread onto pie, attempting to make a pretty design.
Slice and serve. Keeps in fridge, covered, for several days, or until your boyfriend finishes it.
I have a confession to make.
I stole my mother’s old copy of The Joy of Cooking.
That’s a lie. She gave it to me. In any case, I have it now.
I wanted brownies the other night, and I happened to have a leftover bar of chocolate from making the ganache for my mom and sister’s chocolate cupcakes with ganache, so I started going through my cookbooks and stumbled upon the recipe for Brownies Cockaigne.
I will tell you up front that these are not the most chocolatey brownies you will ever eat. They are not the most fudgy, and probably not even the best. I’ve made them twice and for whatever reason, they turn out lighter in color than I expect. That’s a bit of a brownie turn-off for me, but I went with it. They got the job done, and that’s maybe the best thing about them. But they satisfied my craving for chocolate, Handsome ate them all, and they made me happy, so here you go. Brownies Cockaigne.
You will need:
1/2 cup butter
4 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (I omitted this)
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, then remove from heat and cool.
Beat the eggs with the salt until they are “light and foamy in texture.”
Add the sugar gradually and beat until well creamed, then add vanilla.
In a “few swift strokes,” fold in the cooled chocolate by hand (Joy says so).
Fold in the flour by hand. Stir pecans in gently, if using.
Bake in a 9×13 pan at 350 for about 25 minutes.
There’s a recipe for fudgey, chewy brownies in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated, and I can’t wait to try it. I’ll let you know how it compares!